What is Demand Responsive Transport?

by | Oct 1, 2020 | Community Transport Services

Demand responsive transport or DRT, is the emerging technology in community transport, public transport and commercial services. This personalised level of transport service enables the ability to fully optimise your existing resources.  This includes your vehicles and drivers to ensure your increased passenger demand can be met.  It also involves ensuring your staff are readily equipped with streamlined workflows and processes to work stress free in order to deliver a real-time service.

So Just What is Demand Responsive Transport?

Although the term demand responsive transport sounds extremely technical you don’t need to worry.  All it means is that instead of booking your journeys long into the future, you are now just reducing the gap between booking a journey from say 48 hours in advance to 20 minutes or even less on the same day.  The route, times and service then responds to the demand on that day.

Demand responsive transport is not something which is ground breaking at it’s core.  It’s really about the merging of traditional forms of transport such as taking a taxi or public bus, and putting these two concepts together.  When you think about it, it makes sense.  From a fixed route bus perspective, imagine the bus arriving to the bus stop only to find that there’s no one there.  If you knew in advance you might be able to take a more direct route to the next stop on the trip, and in the process reduce fuel usage and your carbon footprint.  From a passenger perspective, you get to travel when you need to and you can adapt your day around a more personalised service.

“The emergence of demand responsive transport will potentially pave the way for a whole new transport experience”

The potential for demand responsive transport is vast.  Imagine not needing a car, simply renting your next seat in a demand responsive way.  This could reduce congestion in the cities and towns at peak times in the future and ensure you’re not waiting around at the bus stop in the cold or rain.

The thought of responding this quickly to a passenger request can sometimes strike fear into any transport manager, but the reality is, this is where technology plays it’s part.  It reduces the burden and workload required to meet the needs of the passenger.  It streamlines 80% of your services so you only have to focus on 20% of the passengers requests.

How do you do this you might ask?  You simply support your service with an intelligent transport software such as Road XS.  Transport software such as this use time slots, GPS tracking and time slack to instantly calculate the next best route in a few mili seconds.

Demand Responsive Transport Technology

Managing demand responsive transport services is complex.  Too complex for anyone to do manually on a spreadsheet.  There are just too many variables such as pickup points, arrival times, maximum transit times, delays, optimised routing, passenger loading times and more.  All of this can be calculated in a moment on a transport software such as Road XS.

Here’s a snapshot of the technology you’ll find in Road XS:

Time Windows and Passenger Loading Times

A time window changes the game.  If you were getting a taxi such as via uber or a personalised service you’d request to be picked up on the dot at 10am.  That’s a given.  Because there is only you.  When you factor in 25 to 50 other passengers either on the same vehicle or on the same day, every working aspect needs to be taken into consideration for each of the passenger’s personlised needs.

For this reason we use time windows.  Time windows are a ‘chunk’ of time that the vehicle will arrive by.  This ensures that if one stop is running slightly late, the time can be made up at the next.  It ensures passengers have a realistic time frame to be available and ready to go.

In Road XS we also calculate the passenger loading time within these time windows to keep the journey flowing.  This is very similar to how deliveries work, you’ll receive a time window for your package delivery.  However, people aren’t parcels so it’s important to treat people right and that’s something we’ve designed at Road XS.

Transit Time

Unlike a parcel, people can only stay in a vehicle for so long.  A parcel can stay there all day not getting cold or hungry.  For this reason, in Road XS you can set the max transit time for a passenger.  This means that when they are on the vehicle for longer than their set time, the route accomodates this and will drop them off at their destination sooner.  We calculate this for all passengers too so you don’t end up with one passenger on for 4 hours and others just on for 20, it’s all calculated to their needs.

Time Slack

Time slack is something we use to allow for the best possible route to be calculated.  If time becomes too rigid the routes become to complex even for computers to fit in.  Routes have to be realistic.  You can’t get from London to York in 20 minutes so they have to be realistic.  Our time slack technology sets the boundaries to what’s possible based on the locality of the service running.  This means that you can tweak the system to meet your needs whether it’s local transport or national.

GPS Tracking

To be fully demand responsive you need to know where your vehicles are.  We include a driver portal which has GPS tacking built in.  This means you can see on a map where you vehicles are in relation to the next stop.  This allows your passengers to know where the vehicle is in the local vicinity so they can book their trip via the passenger portal.  If it’s possible to do so, the route tracking software will then re-route.  If not, it will suggest the best time for the pickup window so the passenger remains informed.

Why GPS Tracking is the Enabler for Demand Responsive Transport

With GPS technology you know exactly where your vehicles and drivers are at any given time. This means you don’t have to estimate what time they might arrive or whereabouts they are on a trip. So things like traffic, road works or just general delays all get factored in. It also means that your passengers know precisely what time their driver is going to be arriving to pick them up. This is extremely useful, especially for a passenger who might be anxious or worried about someone not turning up to get them to an event.

This completely optimises your services and removes a lot of the guesswork. Very often, demand responsive transport is a phrase associated with the use of minibuses or dial a ride services, but we don’t see it that way. We think that community car schemes also work as a demand responsive transport service. A volunteer driver is still driving a vehicle, this means they can still pick people up, and there is nothing stopping a car becoming a dial a ride service either! This is why Road XS has been built as an integrated transport platform, meaning you can combine all your services to deliver the best possible transport service to your passengers as, how and when they need it!

The Future of Demand Responsive Transport

If you think about it, no matter what transport service you are running, it’s all about getting your passenger safely to their destination. With demand responsive transport you have the opportunity to optimise your entire service. So to put this in perspective, what this means is that you might have a passenger travel to the shops on a minibus, but then get picked up soon after in a community car with a volunteer driver to take them to their afternoon event. Later on that afternoon the same passenger is then picked up by a community minibus and taken back home.

Notice how in the above example, the transport service moulds around the passenger’s life seamlessly? That’s because demand responsive transport in our view is just that, it’s a hidden service which is moulding around your passenger’s life.

The thing is you might be thinking this makes a transport manager’s life really difficult! Well not with Road XS. We’ve built Road XS to make the transport manager’s life and team as easy as possible so that they don’t have to worry about driver and vehicle schedules, Road XS just provides all the available vehicles and drivers at the click of a button, ever-changing to the demands of the passengers using the service.

Benefits of a Demand Responsive Transport Software

In order to deliver an efficient transport service you need to consider a number of factors. You need to pick a forward thinking transport software which can adapt with you over time. The reason for this is that your services will always be changing, be it new contracts or increased demands, changing mobility needs or even legislative change to name a few. You need to ensure your services are always growing and moving forwards because this means your services then become more sustainable and can help more people in your local community! Word spreads fast this way!

So what are the benefits of using a Demand Responsive Transport Software?

Very often people use technology for technologies sake. However, demand responsive transport is so complex that it’s the technology that enables the service to happen in the most efficient manner. Just how without the Internet companies like Amazon and Facebook wouldn’t exist, without a user friendly, intelligent and adaptable transport software, true demand responsive transport can’t exist.

Here’s just some examples of what using a transport software will help you achieve:

1) Increased Efficiencies and Resources

No doubt your services have only a finite amount of resources and yet your passengers continue to demand more and more from you. Well the way to solve this is through group travel and ride share. Not only is this good for the environment but it’s also good for people socially too! Think about all those conversations they can have on the bus or car together, that’s the social inclusion box ticked right there!  Not only that, if you’re using Road XS, you become more efficient because incredibly complex calculations are all factored in on your behalf so that you can confidently inform passengers of their estimated pickup windows based on the latest in transport software technology.

2) Arrival Times Get Smarter

No longer is your passenger waiting with an estimate of arrival, they are actually able to see where their ride and journey is before it even gets to them. This means that people gain a better sense of control and can get ready in advance, so they are literally ready on the dot! It also ensures that they are made aware of any delays too on the trip or if their pickup has to detour around some road works.

3) Increased Safety

When GPS is enabled and you embrace demand responsive transport, safety goes up. Why might you ask? Simply because in the worst case scenario you experience a crash, you know exactly where that crash happened and can alert the emergency services of the precise location. It means you have the last known location of the vehicle at all times during a journey.  We’ve made this even easier in Road XS with the integration of What3Words (which means any GPS position can be communicated by just mentioned 3 words for anywhere in the world).

4) It’s Good for the Environment

Your mileage and carbon footprint drop with demand responsive transport because you are running from optimised routes and you are utilising fewer vehicles at any given time. So this means you don’t have to send out a second vehicle to pick someone up you can just slot someone into an existing route which is already pre-planned or slotted in on demand.

5) Reduce the Booking Window

With demand responsive transport you can reduce your booking window so you don’t have to have passengers booking in advance. You can have a passenger book say for a journey within 20 minutes because the demand responsive transport software knows the location of active drivers close to the passengers given location. This means you can better handle unscheduled cancellations better because you can then reallocate those drivers and cover the gaps left by unforeseen events.


As our transport needs change over time we start to see new patterns of where demand for transport services come from.  During the UK national lockdown and local lockdwons this year, it’s apparent how important the movement of people is, and the impact this has on the quality and standards of people’s lives.  People need to get to places.  The means in which we go about doing this are changing.  The way we share rides in the future may be very different to what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergence of demand responsive transport will potentially pave the way for a whole new transport experience for passengers to better support our local economies and our environment.

With Road XS we’re leading the way providing transport managers and providers access to software which is right at the cutting edge.  We’re taking away all the complexities surrounding route planning, scheduling and delivering a seamless user friendly experience.  This keeps you in complete control and provides the confidence you need to keep meeting your passenger’s individual needs.  The future started here.

To find out more feel free to get in touch , we’d love to hear from you. Why not check out the Road XS Podcast here.